Story of a DO-er

By E. Ashley Rooney


Ethie Slate, President of the Friends of Cary Library, Toma Kiio (junior entrepreneur, and Faith Kiio, philanthropist/entrepreneur,  in the Friends of Cary Library’s office. There they have a special container for books for Kenya.

There are some of us who sit around and think. Then there are those who DO
Originally from Kenya, Faith Kiiio is a Lexington resident. She grew up in a village where access to food, water and other basic amenities was challenging. Unfortunately, that is still true today.

Faith says, “The first time I saw a dollar and realized how powerful the currency was, I decided I had to move to wherever the dollar was used. At the time, I had just completed high school with no prospects of continuing with education so I began going to the market to buy and sell cabbages: a business I started with 5 dollars approximately 500 Kenya shillings. I funded my move to the US and joined a nursing school, finally graduating with a bachelor’s in nursing.

“I got the opportunity to better my life, but many others did not and are stuck in a cycle of poverty. The only way to break the cycle is by promoting literacy. Books open up minds to possibilities and inspire the need to do and be better.” A former British colony, Swahili and English are Kenya’s official languages.

Faith began helping a few individuals and collecting books designated as free or near trash areas and sending them back to Kenya. Realizing that the job required more than one able-bodied person, she formed Faith Kenya Mission, a not-for-profit institution, to allow many to make a difference, break that cycle of poverty, and give young people a chance to flourish. More specifically, it increases the literacy rate by supplying books, provides water, conducts feeding programs, and addresses healthcare needs for communities.

Here in Lexington, the Friends of Cary Library receive many donations of books and runs profitable sales. During the pandemic, however, Cary Library was inundated with book donations. (You may recall that at one point they weren’t taking any because there was no more storage space.) Then Ethie Slate, President of the Friends of Cary Library, learned about Faith and her mission.

Concurrently, Faith’s daughter Tomi, who attends Maria Hastings, started a nonprofit student initiative, the One-student, One-book, One -dream movement through Faith Kenya Mission. One of the Mission’s goals is to put books in the hands of kids, teens, and adults to fight illiteracy. It has given books to local schools in Massachusetts, to homeless shelters, and to families who need them.

Faith thought it would take a year to fill a 40-foot container, but when Maria Hastings and Cary Library donated she was able to fill three, 40 ft shipping containers. Subsequently, she sent five more containers. This year it has sent 240,000 books to Kenya and traveled to over 45 schools there. She has nine more storage containers ready to go. The homeless help with the work, Faith happily says, “So Maria Hastings book drive and Cary Library gave Faith Kenya Mission the first seeds of growth and that means a lot to the people of Kenya.”

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